The Cohen diabetic rat as a model for fetal growth restriction: Vitamins C and E reduce fetal oxidative stress but do not restore normal growth

Asher Ornoy, Meytal Avgil Tsadok, Pyrhyia Yaffe, Sarah W. Zangen

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26 Scopus citations


Fetal growth restriction (FGR) describes newborns that were born small for gestational age. The etiology of FGR is unknown, but it is assumed that it is the consequences of both genetic and environmental factors, and that one of the important environmental factors is oxidative stress. In this study we used the Cohen diabetic (CD) rats (sensitive and resistant strains) and the original Sabra strain fed either high sucrose low copper diet-HSD or regular diet-RD to evaluate the genetic and environmental factors contributing to FGR. In addition, we treated the pregnant rats with antioxidants (vitamins C and E added to their food) to evaluate the effects of antioxidants in the prevention of FGR and in changing the redox state of the fetuses. Methods: The study was performed on term 21-day-old fetuses of the three strains fed RD or HSD. Fetal and placental weight and fetal crown rump length were measured. Heart, kidneys, brain and liver were also weighted and studied. The fetal and placental redox status was investigated by studying the levels of Malondialdehyde (MDA) to determine the lipid peroxidation damage and by measuring the activity of catalase (CAT) and superoxide dismutase (SOD) enzymes. Similar studies were performed following the addition of 0.1% of vitamins C and E to the diet. Results: FGR in the Cohen diabetic rats is a consequence of genetic (6-20% reduction in fetal weight in the CDr and CDs compared to Sabra) and environmental (11-36% reduction in fetal weight while on HSD) factors, with greater susceptibility in the CDs diabetic rats. Increased lipid peroxidation was observed in some of the organs only in HSD, however not only in the sensitive strain. In each organ, different patterns of anti oxidant capacity were observed. The addition of antioxidants to the food significantly reduced the signs of enhanced oxidative stress in all animals but partially restored normal fetal growth only in the diabetic CDs rats. This may imply that in this model oxidative stress is apparently not a major contributor to FGR. Conclusions: Cohen diabetic rats are a good model for the study of the interaction of genetic and environmental factors in the development of FGR. Maternal nutrition can influence the antioxidant capacity of the fetal organs which is modified by antioxidants. However, FGR in our model does not seem to result primarily from enhanced oxidative stress, as it is only partially affected by the antioxidant treatment. Thus, the repeated observations of oxidative stress in SGA infants may be a resulting metabolic alteration of FGR and not the main cause.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521-529
Number of pages9
JournalReproductive Toxicology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Antioxidants
  • Cohen diabetic rats
  • Fetal growth restriction
  • Oxidative stress


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